Why the AmEx Gold Card is the Dark-Horse Travel Card You Need in 2023

The bonus and credits for groceries and dining make this card great for people to earn travel rewards at home.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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With big-time bonus points at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, the American Express® Gold Card is seemingly a card for everyone. But with a hefty $250 annual fee yet few-to-no bougie benefits like Centurion Lounge access to show for it, it sometimes feels like a card for no one.

The American Express® Gold Card has always been a bit of a conundrum when it comes to travel cards. Among its most touted perks:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year).

  • 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants.

  • 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmEx Travel.

  • A $10 monthly dining credit to select restaurants and delivery services like Grubhub and Goldbelly.

Terms apply.

Compare that to some of the other premium travel cards out there like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers bigger rewards on travel, automatic hotel elite status, plus statement credits that in years past were worth more than the card’s annual fee. Terms apply.

Despite the money-making benefits of cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, a 2017 Experian survey found that 54% of Americans look for no annual fee as a factor in selecting a card. It’s even less likely people would be willing to pay three-figure annual fees on two cards to try and reap benefits across multiple bonus categories.

As for the American Express® Gold Card, the $250 yearly sticker price already had the no-annual-fee crowd reaching for the barf bag. Yet for folks already paying $250 for a credit card that has a shortfall of shiny travel perks, why not pay more than twice that to get the shiny luxury benefits of a premium card like The Platinum Card® from American Express?

Why not? Because while the annual fee on that card has gone up (it's currently $695), some of its travel benefits are going away. For example, guest access to the swanky Centurion Lounges is going up to $50 per adult. Meanwhile, the The Platinum Card® from American Express continuously adds new benefits that can be hard to use (especially for folk who don’t live in major coastal cities) and have little to do with travel at all.

A lot of card experts, us Nerds included, consider the American Express® Gold Card a travel card. And sure, it lacks many of the top travel benefits people want (or at least think they want). But instead, this dark-horse card has the kind of travel benefits that you might not realize are absolutely perfect for people whose goal is to earn rewards for their spending — and to put those rewards towards a trip.

Six reasons why the American Express® Gold Card is the best travel card in 2023

1. Big earnings rates on food spending

With the American Express® Gold Card, you’ll earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets, plus up to 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants. Terms apply.

And if you’re no longer traveling or going out to movies and concerts, you might find yourself with more room in your "treat yourself" budget. You likely don’t have any huge weekend plans, but Friday night takeout from your favorite restaurant might be the exact thing you need to look forward to.

If food is a big part of your budget — no matter whether you cook or dine out — this card is an excellent way to earn rewards on that spending.

2. Monthly restaurant statement credits

Speaking of takeout, you could get $10 toward your meal every month. Pay with your American Express® Gold Card, and you’re entitled to up to a total of $10 in statement credits on takeout or delivery through Grubhub or Goldbelly, as well as on orders made with The Cheesecake Factory, Milkbar, Wine.com and participating Shake Shack locations. Terms apply.

Travel might be on hold for the moment, but you can always get your dim sum delivered, bringing a little taste of your dream vacation to your dining room. Plus, you’ll get back $120 of value on the $250 annual fee. Terms apply.

If it’s money you would have spent anyway, that’s effectively like earning back $120 of value on the $250 annual fee. Terms apply.

Eligibility for this offer is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.

3. Uber Cash benefit

And the takeout deals still don’t stop. In 2021, American Express added a new benefit to the American Express® Gold Card: up to $120 per year in Uber Cash doled out in $10 monthly increments, which can be used toward Uber Eats or for traditional Uber rides in the U.S. This accounts for up to $120 of value.

Note that you must add the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit. Terms apply.

4. Car rental loss and damage insurance

If you’ve traded plane travel for road trips (and you’re not driving your own car), charging the rental car to your American Express® Gold Card can help pay for costs if you get into an accident.

While not quite as good as the primary insurance coverage you’ll find on some other travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it still offers secondary rental car coverage, meaning it’ll pick up the cost not covered by your other insurance agreements, such as applicable deductibles. Terms apply.

5. The ability to transfer points, for when you’re ready to travel again

While you can exchange your Membership Rewards points for cash, they’re typically most valuable when exchanged for travel. What’s more, the AmEx Membership Rewards program has more than 20 travel partners to transfer points to.

With this card, you can transfer to any of the program’s airline partners including Air Canada, Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Emirates and Singapore. Or, send them to the hotel loyalty programs of either Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy. Terms apply.

What’s great about the cheaper American Express® Gold Card is that transfer partner rates are the same on both cards. The ability to transfer AmEx Membership Rewards is one of the best benefits out there, so it’s delightful that you can get the same perk on this card, with a lower annual fee.

6. You’re not paying for superfluous benefits

Increasingly, the The Platinum Card® from American Express has turned into a somewhat glorified coupon book.

Some of the perks are widely luxurious, like a $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection, the $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, the $300 statement credit toward a SoulCycle at-home bike, and a $300 Equinox credit per calendar year. Enrollment required. Terms apply. 

Those perks can be delightful, but is that money you would have otherwise spent? If not, then it might not be fair to factor those into justifying the card’s annual fee.

Other perks like the Walmart+ credit, $20 monthly digital entertainment credit and cell phone protection might be more accessible, but still only provide value if you actually use them. If you only watch Netflix, well, too bad. The $20 monthly digital entertainment credit won’t cover it, though it will cover other services like Disney+. Hopefully you like Baby Yoda. Terms apply. Enrollment required.

In past years, you might have been envious of your friends toting The Platinum Card® from American Express, but increasingly, the card has become stressful to use — and ensure it delivers its full value. Terms apply.

Compare it with the small handful of perks on this card, which are far easier to use anyway.

The bottom line

If you’ve got big spending planned for this year — particularly when it comes to spending on dining and groceries, the American Express® Gold Card is one of the most efficient vehicles for earning rewards points. Its earnings rate is astonishingly high, and its rewards can be transferred to other airline and hotel partners, which can make them even more valuable. That’ll put you on your way to a free trip (or at least, help you pay for a big chunk of it).

Throw in the other benefits like Uber statement credits — which many people will find easy to use with little or no effort — and it’s easy to see how everyday spending can pay off by holding this card in 2023.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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